The Ferguson Cottage, 1859

A turn of the century snapshot from the Ferguson Album of Sylvia (Ferguson) Lenfest posing in front of her father's one room home, assembled here in 1859.

BAD NEWS THIS MONTH: we may have celebrated the founding of Snohomish a year too soon.

It seems that our founder, E. C. Ferguson, didn’t take up residence here until 1860 – around this time of the year, 150 years ago – according to historian David Dilgard, of the Northwest Room at the Everett Public Library. He wrote in the Journal of Everett & Snohomish County History a story titled, “The Adventures of Old Ferg” published in the summer of 1981: “Ferguson made his journey to the site, known initially as ‘Cadyville,’ in March of 1860 aboard the Ranger No. 2, a sidewheel steamer captained by John Hill.”

If we were to be challenged on this technicality, however, we can point to his first home that is still standing and say: but his home was here in 1859!

E. C. Ferguson, circa 1903
Ferguson, only 26 years old, built the one-room home in Steilacoom where he was living and working with a group of wide-eyed businessmen looking for an opportunity to cash in on the planned military road to Fort Bellingham. Their idea was to establish a ferry service where the imagined road was to cross the Snohomish River. But, Federal funds and troops were diverted to support the Civil War and the military road ended as barely a path at the river’s edge on the south bank. (I have found no record of regular ferry service until one was licensed by the county in 1887.)

Ferguson’s business partners disappeared like the cigar smoke that once hovered over their boisterous talk of how rich they were all to become. Only Ferguson followed the shipment of his home to the high bluff overlooking the Snohomish River. His claim holder Hiel Barnes assembled it for him.

Historian David Dilgard created this drawing of the Ferguson Cottage from on site measurements he gathered in 1980.
In 1980, Dilgard was awarded a grant to document the structure, which at the time was in danger of being demolished before in fell down. It measures 16 feet across the front and 24 feet deep. Ferguson lived in the house, expanded to two-rooms, for 20 years, and later in life told a reporter for the Everett Daily Herald, “It wasn’t a palace, but it was home sweet home to me for many a year, and I never have been happier than while I lived there.”

The Ferguson Cottage was purchased and renovated by Rebecca Loveless in 1997 and has been occupied since that time. It is considered the oldest building still standing in the county and it can be viewed only from the Snohomish River Trail. This is the time of the year to check it out, before the blackberries block the view completely.

The Ferguson Cottage as it appears today from the Snohomish River Trail. It was purchased and fully restored by Rebecca Loveless in 1997 and has been occupied since then. This is the only public view of the historic home.

Join me in silently celebrating Snohomish’s secret year of when its founder finally showed up.

Published April 21, 2010, in the Snohomish Country Tribune

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